Insider Q&A: Eutechnyx CEO talks emerging trends in game development, ACR Drift, and his company’s focus on F2P

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By Jon Robinson Comment

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With over 25 years of video game development and hits that include everything from Auto Club Revolution to NASCAR, U.K. studio Eutechnyx has switched its focus away from consoles, setting its sights squarely on mobile’s free-to-play market.

Inside Mobile Apps sat down with Eutechnyx CEO Darren Jobling to get his thoughts on the move to F2P, industry trends, and Eutechnyx’s plans for 2014, including details on their latest game, ACR Drift.

Inside Mobile Apps: Eutechnyx has been so successful on consoles and PC in the past, why did you feel like now was the right time to shift the company’s focus to mobile?

Darren Jobling: It’s a changing world out there. Back in 2010, we started off raising some money from private ventures in Amsterdam, specifically to tackle the free-to-play market. We’ve been known for our racing and driving games, but we wanted to have some variation, and we have some very passionate people who had some great ideas for mobile, so that’s how we got started. We setup a mobile division in our company and got some really, really motivated people to start working on our mobile products.

IMA: Are you still going to make console games, or is your focus now entirely on mobile?

DJ: We have NASCAR 14 going out in time for Daytona this February, and that’s PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. So we don’t see the console market going away, but instead of doing multiple console games, we’re really just concentrating on NASCAR on the console front, and then moving the other teams to mobile.

IMA: What’s been the biggest learning curve going from console games to the mobile market?

DJ: Somebody famously said, free isn’t cheap enough, and that about sums it up. It’s a very different market, a different skill set, and a different reward structure in terms of how quickly you want to get people on board. With a console game, somebody invested $50 in a product, so they’re quite motivated to learn everything about the game to understand it, but on mobile, if you don’t reward somebody straightaway, they’re gone and they’ve already moved on to something else. It’s a tough market, but it’s a really interesting market.

IMA: Is ACR Drift the next game you guys have coming out for mobile?

DJ: Yes. We have Auto Club Revolution, which is our free-to-play PC game, and we saw a huge opportunity to bring all of those licenses across to mobile. We have over 60 of the world’s biggest car manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes, and we wanted to bring these cars to a game where the control method was tailored specifically for mobile. We teamed up with Crooz, and these guys are one of the big players in the Japanese and Korean market, so they’re bringing their free-to-play and mobile expertise, we’re bring the driving expertise, and what we’ve come up with is ACR Drift. The game is currently in beta on iOS in Australia, and it’s been the number one, best-selling racing game. We’re looking at Q1 to release it world-wide. It’s really going to get people to sit up and take notice to what we’re doing. It’s a really cool, really simple game with incredible graphics.

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IMA: What do racing fans want in a mobile game that’s different from their desires when playing on a console?

DJ: I think everybody wants the realistic physics and great visuals, and now the bar has been set so high in racing and driving games, you need to have that to even begin to compete in the genre. You need great graphics, great physics, and great licenses, and that’s just your starting point. What we’ve done from there is taken some great locations from around the world, places like Moscow, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles, and we’ve created a game that combines some of that street racing excitement with that ease of accessibility. It’s a quick race/reward mechanic, so you don’t have to spend hours figuring out how to drive as you bounce off the barriers. You just get straight into it and get racing, then later on, it gets much harder. So it’s easy to get on board, but tough to master.

IMA: What mobile game trends do you expect to dominate the headlines in 2014?

DJ: Mobile is growing at a crazy rate, but I think we’ve only just started, especially when you look at places like Japan and see how big mobile has become out there. The rest of the world still has some catching up to do. I think what’ you’re going to start to see, though, are AAA games being produced just for mobile. So currently, you have the historical AAA games that come across from console and enter mobile, but pretty soon, you’re going to get somebody that brings those same AAA values, but makes the game mobile-native, and then that game doesn’t go anywhere else. I think as the budgets get bigger, you’re going to see more and more of these types of games exclusively on mobile.

IMA: So if someone releases a AAA game like you’re talking about, would they charge money for it, or are premium games pretty much dead from here on out?

DJ: Are paid apps dead? Possibly, but for the right game with the right content, you can still charge, but I think everything is headed to free-to-play. That’s what we saw in 2010, and it’s pretty much come to fruition.

Eutechnyx_300IMA: Beyond racing, last year you released Ninja Cats vs. Samurai Dogs, which was a surprise hit. Can we expect more games from Eutechnyx like this in the future?

DJ: It came out of left field. We had a guy from our mobile team who had it as an idea, so we worked it up as a playable demo, and when it was done, everybody really liked it. It’s one of the best reviewed games we ever made. It’s a fun little game, and for us, it was the start of a learning curve on how to approach the mobile market and how you find success on mobile. We learned a heck of a lot from that game.

IMA: Where do you guys stand on making games for Windows, and more specifically, the Surface? Obviously, iOS and Android are priorities, but it seems like Microsoft is making great strides in the tablet market.

DJ: We’re watching the space with great interest, but obviously, you can never write off Microsoft. Although they might not be successful the first time around, boy, do those guys know how to keep on going and keep on going and improve all the time.